Figuring out the will of the people.

On Saturday afternoon last, Nicholas, Grace and I took to the airwaves of DundalkFM100 – all three of us are volunteers and trainees with our local community radio station. Thus making the Saturday afternoon show an interesting creative and editorial educational experience, Nicholas is a performance poet, writer, journalist, newspaper editor and natural communicator, Grace is a wonderfully talented student of theatre arts and media, a live wire, replete with masters, degrees and absolute bucket loads of ability, enthusiasm and added joie de vivre… I was there too.

The show was mainly composed of live recordings of the public protest held at the market square Dundalk on the previous evening – chaired (think that’s the word he used) by the inimitable Mr Harry Lee (formerly of DundalkFM100, friend to many and all round good guy). This was the apparent swansong of a strong and sustained protest that started at the very least five years ago, with several thousand members of Dundalk community voicing their opposition to public Health Cuts and specifically the systematic downgrading of the services provided by our local Louth County Hospital. (as succinctly reported today by RTE)

Some readers may already be familiar with it’s sister hospital, the ingloriously infamous Lady of Lourdes (LOL) Hospital in Drogheda (26 miles apart) where among appreciated and invaluable health care services provided, a number of horrific incidents, essentially cases suggesting butchery by consultant condescension, are alleged, and in the case of Michael Neary entirely proven, several bouts of vomiting bugs, side wide infection quarantines, A&E overcrowding etc have run rampant in times of recent crisis. Essentially before any of the services from Dundalk are transferred to it, the site and its systems are already struggling to achieve some sort of stability.

The (LOL) hospital’s recently renovated façade is a modern monument to the HSE’s monolithic centralization policy, a shrine to the unwelcome administrative layering of our society as a whole, well it would be if it were open and operational, ironically like so many other conceptual cracks in our little country, the only whole is the humanitarian void encapsulated within an expensive inanimate building. Where something of value to community and society should reside thrive and vibrate to living echoes of human hope struggle and interaction, a silent edifice stands, dumb, deaf and bereft, a big block box of postponed ambition and bitter disappointment – a testament to disingenuous ego arsewholery at its worst. So these closures in Dundalk doubly anger people, particularly when they hear more HSE gobble de gook assurances of efficiencies & reconfigurations.

When Nicholas asked me what I personally thought about the situation in Dundalk, I listened to those charged speeches and interviews with local people and celebrities, I confessed that I do have a strong emotional bond to that specific place, with my three sons having been born there and my father having passed away there, and having experienced the full emotional gamut on the many many visits to friends and family cared for there over the years. My heart literally sinks when I try to get my head around it.

And at that low emotional point I understand that the agenda of the debate has been firmly set, the parameters have been rigid, the context concreted, fixed in Numbers by the HSE. The debate, such as it has been over the last number of years, centered on demographics, charts, mathematics, figures, sums, numbers, and the economical and numerical reconfigurations of abstract conjectures. Not on the personal inequities, lack of merit, the wrongness of or the lack of conscience in remotely messing about with real peoples lives, tinkering with the lives of other little people like me, an absence of the will to find genuine solutions for insignificant non decision makers, bleeding beads of the abacus, patently outside the spheres of direct effect and thus insignificant in terms of powerful decision stakeholders – we are obviously not worth the time or effort in terms of thinking creatively about, or sensitively considering, these very personal challenges.

The debate has been strategically focused on inanimate numbers, metrics, spreadsheets, plans and action plans, despite the very best effort of local campaigners, the emotional impacts of these divisive degrading actions have been minimized by continually contextualizing them in fixed numbers and commercial abstractions. Using the black and white of the individual boom era, not the current vague grays of collective recession, means despite the strong emotions and genuine feelings expressed by those campaigning against the cuts, the HSE and even the mainstream media has succeeded in dehumanizing the debate into a dispassionate numbers game – but we the people have figured that out.

Denis Cummins, pictured centrally in a previous image post & current president of DKIT, (Dundalk Institute of Technology) speaking with understandable pride about the ten major buildings that now compose his campus and the 30 Million euro that he has spent refurbishing just one of them recently, spoke quite a bit about opportunity this morning on the very same radio station. I wonder did he have the opportunity to discuss locating the New Nurse training Building within the Louth Hospital complex, and thus ensure that some degree(sic) of Dundalk’s medical future be tied to that original site – the odd thing is that Health and Education were once regarded as twin pillars of our democratic society and essential for the collective well-being of the country’s biggest town, apparently while we’re all busy in the pursuit of a knowledge economy our public health can take a back seat, and the will of the people can reside in the boot, only to be consulted when the journey is over.

Is that yet more evidence of a society gone mad with materialistic empirical drive, the idea, expressed even by Denis this morning, that the only valid form of education involves ‘pieces of paper’ and the staid inflexible world view which such an attitude engenders, if it does then it feeds directly into the utter insanity of perpetuating a system that has patently failed to deliver what it was originally empowered to do, deliver the will of the people, isn't that what our republic is supposedly about, the difficulty is, we the people were the ones that endowed that system with power in the first instance, we consented, now the system has all the power and the people can (& will most likely as a result) go to hell in a handcart, will or no will, it's time to withdraw consent.

end of rant... for now